Sunday, Red Wing mayor Dennis Egan's new job as Executive Director of the Minnesota Industrial Sand Council (MISC) generated a classic Jon Tevlin column, New frac-sand job for Red Wing mayor is legal but dumb.
An upcoming meeting of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, of which Egan is a board member, illustrates just how dumb that job may be--and where it might skirt ethical and legal boundaries.
In 2012, Dennis Egan was appointed to the executive board of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, a Walton Family Foundation supported effort for sustainable river restoration:
Over 3 million residents collectively populate the 124 Mississippi River main stem cities and towns. These riparian population centers are soundly River-centric. MRCTI will give a common voice to those who depend most upon the River, and by virtue of doing so, will span political and economic interests. That is, it will tap a natural source of the longed-for integration of transportation, farming, industrial, municipal and environmental interests to launch lasting solutions to River management issues.
And while the Walton family founded WalMart, the foundation funds all sorts of Freshwater and marine conservation projects. Among the groups receiving grants to work on Mississippi River conservation are the Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center ( $225,000) and frac sand mining critics Land Stewardship Project ($300,000). If the latter grant was intended as greenwash, it's not working, as LSP remains as committed as ever to building non-WalMart local food networks in other program areas. Conservation and environmental issues simply aren't as politically left-right as party messaging experts would have voters believe.
Here's the information about Dennis Egan's membership:
So who's paying for Mayor Egan's involvement in the council? In part, the citizens of Red Wing.
On January 14, 2013, the Red Wing City Council voted to pay $1000 toward Egan's travel expenses to the group's DC kick-off meeting in Washington DC:
Motion to Approve Mayor Egan' s Travel Outside of Minnesota to Attend Mississippi River's Cities and Towns Initiative in Washington, DC Mayor Egan is a board member of the Mississippi River's Cities and Towns Initiative. They are meeting in Washington March 19 -21. Up to $ 1, 000 in funds are available to reimburse travel expenses. Approval of the Consent Agenda constitutes authorization for out -of -state travel for Mayor Egan to attend the Mississippi River' s Cities and Towns Initiative in DC.
So the City of Red Wing is paying all or part of Mayor Dennis Egan's travel to Washington DC as member of this river conservation group's board. Will he be silent about discussions of sand mining? Will he leave the room? Will he disclose the fact that he's working for an industry group that's fighting with a significant chunk of the residents of the riparian population centers in the Upper Mississippi River Basin?
How will anyone ever know?
Bluestem strongly suspects--given the pattern of grant making on the part of the Walton Family Foundation's giving for Mississippi River conservation--that the grantmakers in pastoral Bentonville didn't exactly imagine that the Executive Director of the Minnesota Industrial Sand Council would be repping their project.
News reports mention Dennis Egan had informally worked for MISC before he inked his contract on February 1. Perhaps the Red Wing City Council might have liked to know about his new job before they voted to pay $1000 for him to travel to Washington D.C.
Sure, it's legal--we suppose. But certainly dumb--and an invitation to anger those who are footing the bill for river conservation.
Photo: Another frac sand train wreck.
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